But Polis was a close second. Having enraged top Democrats and the business community by sponsoring a slew of anti-fracking initiatives, he’s now infuriated the anti-fracking movement by agreeing to pull them as part of a Hickenlooper-driven compromise.
The draft agreement, which would need to be approved by the state legislature in a special session, gives localities more control over setbacks, inspections and noise reduction. Even so, activists want no part of it.
At Wednesday’s screening of the anti-fracking film “Dear Governor Hickenlooper,” the audience of several hundred broke out in boos when Frack-Free Colorado co-founder Allison Wolff called the draft bill “a secret deal that Hickenlooper and Polis are working on.”
“We can’t live in Colorado when our elected officials that are paid by your tax dollars are not working on behalf of you and the environment of Colorado,” said fracktivist leader Shane Davis, who acts as the film’s narrator. “We’ve got a huge struggle. We have a compromise bill that Jared Polis is happily accepting.”
When Polis agreed to sign off on the compromise, the assumption was that he would bring the anti-fracking movement with him. Now that its organizers and ground troops have turned against him, the speculation is that the fracktivists may have viewed him all along as more of a check-writer than an insider or leader.
Boulder Weekly columnist Joel Dyer said as much in an article last week, telling Polis, “You can’t have it both ways, congressman,” and urging him to take a side.
“Until then, it’s probably not a good idea to pretend to be speaking for the rest of the folks who know exactly what they are fighting for,” said Dyer, who referred to the draft bill as the “Polis/Hickenlooper compromise.” “They have no interest in Hickenlooper’s oil friendly compromise. Thanks, but no thanks.”
Meanwhile, a broad spectrum of business groups has come out against the compromise, including the Colorado Petroleum Association, saying its stakeholders weren’t consulted during the drafting process and that the bill creates too much economic uncertainty and risk.
The day after Polis said he would support the draft as long as it undergoes no changes, a coalition of prominent local and national environmental groups issued a blistering statement opposing the compromise.
“This ‘compromise’ is a sweetheart deal for the oil and gas industry,” said Laura Fronckiewicz, an organizer of Our Broomfield, in the Saturday release. “The thousands of moms, dads and community members in Broomfield who voted to protect our constitutional rights were not consulted on this proposal. We are adamantly opposed to it.”
Broomfield, of course, lies in Polis’s congressional district, as does Fort Collins. In the same statement, Kelly Giddens of Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins also denounced the compromise.
Anti-fracking Facebook pages were peppered with comments such as this one from Kan Axelrod of Denver: “Jared Polis, Hickenlooper, and o&g sold us out. Sold out our rights as humans.”
Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said there’s obviously a “very serious disconnect” between Polis and the anti-fracking movement.
“[H]e looked like he was making a good faith effort and was by and large respected and liked by the environmental community, and doing everything he could to say, ‘Well, if you don’t change a thing, I guess I can live with this,’ but that then put him in the camp with the governor,” said Ciruli. “For about four minutes, everybody liked him.”
Now Polis finds himself without allies, and his loss is Cliff Willmeng’s gain. Willmeng is collecting signatures for Initiative 75, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, which has been overshadowed by Polis’s proposals but may wind up being the only viable anti-fracking measure if Polis pulls the plug on his campaign.
Willmeng has literally raised no money, but at Wednesday’s screening, he was invited to speak on stage alongside prominent anti-fracking advocates like Wolff and Davis. Several speakers, including Davis, urged the crowd to sign the Initiative 75 petitions, which were being circulated in the lobby.
“The only real thing that we have right now that stands between your house and a drill rig is #75,” said Davis.
Unlike Polis, Willmeng isn’t a multi-millionaire, but he does appear to have the trust of the anti-fracking movement. In the short run, at least, that relationship may prove more valuable than a full war chest.
Ciruli predicted Initiative 75 would gather enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot, whereas the Hickenlooper and Polis compromise appears to have run aground.
“This is obviously not working,” said Ciruli. “It’s kind of falling apart here.”